Snooping or Saving the World?

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Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices.

“When people have control over what they share, they are comfortable with sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. In a more open world, many of the problems that we face together become easier to solve. ”

Zuckerberg’s impassioned (well, the words are at least)  speech about the benefits of Facebook and the new privacy functions is positive, yet bordering idealistic. His optimistic worldview is reluctant to empathise with the vulnerability individuals feel in a world where not having Facebook isn’t really an option, especially among young people.

It is true that a liberalisation of information may help solve many problems, but at what price? The problems of privacy invasion seem more steep for most individuals. For a website the relies on the input and distribution of personal information, it’s clear that they will do anything to beguile us into uploading more of our lives, including making privacy controls easier to use.

Further to that, what world problems are actually being solved by strangers knowing that I like pokemon, or the knowledge that two of my friends supposedly met at an event that they both clicked attending to on Facebook?

Facebook weighs so much into our lives these days and has, as Anne Hill of Huffpost Tech puts it, ” forever altered how we conduct our relationships” (Hill, 2011). Most people feel like pawns in the game that Zuckerberg is playing, as we follow along blindly as he makes changes to the way we interact with people and groups on Facebook. A good example of this is the recent changes to groups; it may be for the better, but it has exposed to me to the enormous way in which Facebook is capable of changing our everyday lives. Not only that, but it is argued that the new group format is designed mainly as a better way of tracking our relationships with other members, that the company will thus “use your behavior in Groups to better understand these relationships.” (Van Grove, 2010). This opens up a whole other host of privacy issues, as Facebook may attempt to sell this inexplicit information to advertisers and other companies.

Either way, I think it’s still possible to use the social networking site to your best advantage, as long as you really do take control over what you share. Guides such as this really help with making sure you are an informed Facebooker:

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-privacy-new-2009-12

It all comes down to being proactive and making the most of the information sharing sites out there. This may involve a bit of self-censoring and active engagement with the subtle changes that Facebook makes to its design, but it’s worth it. Despite their issues, I still think it’s better to have them than to not.

Watch the screen, don’t let it watch you.

References:

Van Grove, Jennifer. 2010, “New Facebook Groups Designed to Change the Way You Use Facebook”, 3rd June at <http://mashable.com/2010/10/06/facebook-groups-2/&gt;

Hill, A 2011, “It’s Not Just About Privacy: Facebook’s Growing Problem”, Huffpost Tech, 2nd June at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-hill/its-not-just-about-privac_b_868507.html&gt;

Zuckerberg, M 2010, “On Making Privacy Controls Simple”, The Official Facebook, US, at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWDneu_w_HQ&gt;

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3 responses to “Snooping or Saving the World?

  1. Charizard or wartortle, which was your favourite?

  2. In all seriousness, your description of Facebook activity as “uploading our lives” is really quite insightful (and disturbing). I think I prefer my life where it is! Also, your question as to what ‘problems’ could be solved by knowing of your friends’ liaisons or a secret interest in pokemon are–I fear–targetted marketing problems, rather than real issues of importance. The whole idea of solving the world’s big problems with “Facebook sharing the love” is as believable as Ronald McDonald’s being just a lovable old clown with some hot culinary tips!

  3. Great post, Dani. Privacy on Facebook is a really interesting issue, and a divisive one at that. I find that my opinion is stretched between two ideological standpoints. I believe that Facebook is an incredible company – a company that offers what people want and works within the legal boundaries of its TOS. But on the other hand, I feel that Facebook have some corporate obligation to make it easier for its users to *attempt* to understand the TOS. They should feel obliged to make a dot-point summary of the TOS so its users (like you and me) can understand what we are really signing up to when we create a profile.

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